Panasonic Corporation Improves Quality of Notebook PC with LabVIEW and PXI

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"The key to choosing NI products for Panasonic was the all-in-one compact enclosure, combinations of modules, the option to easily add features depending on our needs, and the ability to develop a program that has an intuitive graphical interface."

- Takeuti Isao , Chief Engineer, Plant Production Engineering Team, Electronics Appliances

The Challenge:
Reducing test time of new releases of the Panasonic Toughbook notebook PC and decreasing the amount of power consumption and carbon dioxide emissions from the production plant.

The Solution:
Using NI software and hardware to create an integrated test system that achieves quality test results while reducing test development time and environmental impact.

Author(s):
Takeuti Isao - Chief Engineer, Plant Production Engineering Team, Electronics Appliances

By raising our standards for our popular Toughbook PC to meet the expectations of our customers, we continue our commitment to quality and ease of use, and ensure domestic production and consistent implementation of the circuit board assembly.

We work to quickly bring new notebook PC models and features to market based on customer needs, and we have to constantly change test systems to correlate with new products. In addition, we continue to add features that make our notebook PCs ideal for mobile use, such as lengthening the battery life and reducing weight. In particular, the Toughbook is suited for fieldwork applications and manufactured to endure 6 ft drops and withstand violent shocks and vibrations. They are fabricated to operate at temperatures more than 140 °F and below -20 °F and function at high altitude and under increased atmospheric pressure. For the healthcare industry, we recently developed the mobile Tablet PC, which can be kept clean with alcohol, and we are always trying to adopt new ideas for durable materials.

We bring new Panasonic notebook PC models to the market every holiday season. Because we carry out the development and production of different models in parallel, mistakes at the end of production often halt the progress of multiple models in development. Through domestic production, we can quickly respond to development, manufacturing, sales, and support issues.

Drawbacks of Our Previous Inspection System

Our previous test system inspected printed circuit boards (PCBs) by mapping individual parameters to separate box instruments. As we developed new features, we needed new box instruments. This approach was very time-consuming and required a lot of development effort because of the increasing number of instruments and energy footprint.

By carrying out the inspections during the production process, we can test the efficiency and accuracy of the products, thus decreasing potential mistakes and spikes in development time. Our overall goal is to increase quality and reduce the time and cost to produce each unit.

New Test System Based on NI TestStand, LabVIEW, and PXI

In 2007, NI proposed an automated system that would suit our current and future needs and improve the quality of inspection. We developed a software-defined test system based on NI TestStand, LabVIEW, and PXI modular instrumentation. This new system reduced the development time and created a detailed response to product inspection. Traditionally, our hardware operators and software development program were divided, but LabVIEW required minimal programming experience so our hardware operators could easily use and understand the programs, reducing the cost of employee training.

The key to choosing NI products for Panasonic was the all-in-one compact enclosure, combinations of modules, the option to easily add features depending on our needs, and the ability to develop a program that has an intuitive graphical interface. With NI products, tests can be simple or complex, but always operate quickly to easily resolve errors found during inspection.

Using LabVIEW and NI PXI modular instrumentation helped us understand the features and programming for each instrument, improve the accuracy of inspection, create a system built on integrated hardware and software, and achieve higher levels of reliability and stability of the inspection process.  The cost, in terms of efficiency and scalability, for automated test systems has improved our Total Cost of Ownership Development compared to a benchmark for other companies, in terms of product cost and performance.

Author Information:
Takeuti Isao
Chief Engineer, Plant Production Engineering Team, Electronics Appliances

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